Fearless Checkers

by Tim Suddeth

It’s funny the places walking your dogs can take you. Often, not so much physically, but mentally. Sometimes it’s a wonder I find our way home.

This morning we were walking down our street when I saw a large calico cat in one of my neighbors’ yards. It was sitting up in a defensive posture, fur fluffed out, well before we got near it. Then it backed up like it was about to run. I’m used to cats calmly watching us walk by, so this got my attention.

But it wasn’t looking at us. It was looking at the ground a couple of feet in front of it. When I got closer, I saw its attacker––a teenage chipmunk. Was it Reepacheek from the Narnia stories? Theodore from the Chipmunks? It was standing up to the much larger cat, showing its front teeth.

It reminded me of something I saw almost fifty years ago. Then it bothered me that I have memories that old. Does this mean that I’m getting––anyway I was two doors down from our house at Grandpa Suddeth’s playing checkers. He had a homemade checker board painted on wood. We used Coca-Cola caps for checkers. One player played with his caps turned label side up.

At his house, it was Coke. Next door to us at Mrs. Burnetts’ it was always and only Pepsi. I don’t know if they ever spoke to each other.

Grandpa Suddeth sat in his chair, chewing on the always present plug of Red Mule tobacco, spit can in reach. This was when they sold the tobacco products at the checkout counter without ID. It was in the summer so his black iron coal stove, that kept us sweating during the winter, wasn’t lit.

I was in one of the early grades. Grandpa was in his later eighties.What? He won the last game we played when he was 91. I can’t remember who was winning this game.

I looked outside and saw a German Shepherd running for all its worth across the field. On its heels was his calico cat whose babies lived in the barn. My daddy had named her Calvin (Oops.) Calvin always greeted my grandparents when they came outside by rubbing against their ankles. You use who for that kind of cat

I said, “Grandpa. Cats don’t chase dogs.” (Ah, my public education paying off.)

“Mama cats do,” he said as he took my king.

Just goes to remind us that we can do amazing things when we choose to stand up to our fears. Like me, playing checkers with Grandpa.

How about you?